Omnom Papua New Guinea 70% Dark Chocolate

Omnom Papua New Guinea

Single-origin organic dark chocolate made in Iceland

Holy crap.  This is the most ridiculously funky chocolate I have ever tasted.  Picture this: you’ve pitched an army-surplus canvas tent and then you break open several hundred cigarettes and spread the tobacco over the ground inside the tent.  Zipper the tent closed.  Now lie down on the bed of tobacco.  Breath in deep.  Got that aroma?  Now you’re starting to understand the experience of this dark chocolate.

Before I go any further, let’s back up a bit.  Omnom is a relatively new chocolate brand from Iceland. They’re possibly the only bean-to-bar maker in Iceland.  Omnom is using organic beans from a handful of tropical origins – some as single-origin bars and some apparently as blends.  They’re distinguishing themselves with eye-catching package artwork and unique flavor profiles.

WHAT: Omnom Papua New Guinea 70% Cacao. 60 g (2.1 oz). Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter.

Where to buy Omnom Papua New Guinea.

WHEN: November 30, 2014

OVERALL RATING: 82.

AROMA:  Potent tobacco, canvas, burnt grass, smoke, leather.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Not just tobacco, but cigar wrapper leaf and smoke.

MIDDLE TASTE: Now the fruit appears from behind a curtain of smoke: banana, prune, kiwi, melon and molasses.

FINISH: Kiwi moves into citrus, walnuts then turns earthy and a bit astringent.

TEXTURE: These are thick bars with a little chew to them. Smooth, but not creamy.

Omnom Papua New Guinea Open bar

Wow – this bar has an over the top smoky tobacco and leather aroma that will knock you over.

LAST BITE:  I won’t pretend. There’s no doubt some of you will hate this bar. Those of you with open minds should really try it. Look, stop thinking of chocolate making as striving to a singular point of perfection. How interesting would it be if everyone on the planet looked more or less the same? Not very. Just like diversity in people makes life interesting, so it goes with food – even chocolate.

This is to chocolate what uni is to sushi.  If you’re a sushi neophyte, you don’t start with uni and it’s green-grey formless meat and pungent marine flavors.  Perhaps you start with California roll or maguro and then build your way up to the pleasure of uni, if you ever get there.

Still, all the masculine notes of tobacco, leather and smoke in the Omnom Papua New Guinea dark chocolate are really over the top. I really don’t know if this is intentional or by accident. For instance if the farmers in Papua New Guinea are drying the cacao beans under the heat of a fire of some rather than on terraces under the sun, that would explain a lot. On the other hand, if this is a true expression of the terroir of the bean, that’s real cool. If it can be controlled, I say back off a bit, but don’t try to make it taste like some bland and overworked “drugstore chocolate.” That would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Keep the funkiness and stay true to the bean.

Sure, this stuff is not for everyone.  But, if you’re the type that shuns what everyone else is eating, especially tired, bland Swiss chocolate and want a unique experience, eat this bar and laugh.  I did.

Notes:

[1] The chocolate was provided to me for free by the distributor not knowing what I would do with it.

 

 

Royce’s Nama Chocolate from Japan

Nama Chocolate – “Maccha”

Royce' Nama Chocolate

Green tea chocolate from Japan – Royce’ Nama Chocolate

I came across these chocolates in a gift shop at Tokyo’s Nartia airport and given my love of both matcha and chocolate, I had to grab a box for myself.  One of the most delicious deserts I’ve ever eaten was daifuku (a “cake” of glutenous rice surrounding sweet bean paste) dusted with matcha (green tea powder intended for tea ceremony)[2].  The sweetness of the daifuku contrasted with the gentle fragrant bitterness of the matcha was incredible. It may have helped a bit that I was eating the stuff among the maple trees in the shadow of kinkaku-ji, AKA the golden pavilion, of Kyoto.  Still I wonder, could the same sweet-bitter balance work for these chocolate treats even if chocolate is already a combination of bitter and sugar?

Tasting and Review of Royce’ Nama Chocolate from Japan

Nama chocolate Maacha

Several layers of packaging protect the chocolate and a miniature fork is included

The taste was definitely milky and dominated more by matcha than chocolate, but it brought me to a different place than the daifuku of Kyoto.  The rich milky sweetness and bitter tea brought me to Tokyo and the ubiquitous Tully’s Coffee.  Yes, Tully’s makes consistently great coffee drinks, but I sometimes get their hot or cold Matcha Latte – some green tea powder whipped up with a bunch of milk and more than enough sugar to get me through a few meetings at the office.  It’s a bit decadent, but I like to treat myself when I travel far from home – throwing the rules out the window since I’m usually enduring some level of physical discomfort pretty much 24-7.

It turns out that this is white chocolate flavored with matcha - something I learned only after finding a translation of the ingredients

Soft tablets of Nama Chocolate Maccha cut in two to expose a creamy interior loaded with matcha

Nama chocolate reminded me of those milky bitter-sweet flavors of Tully’s Matcha Latte and what I like about Tokyo, and there’s a lot to like.  This is a fun and unique confection that’s set up nicely for sharing with pre-cut squares.  I had tasted the chocolate before I found an English translation of the ingredients, but was not surprised to find that this is white chocolate.  This explains the lack of any distinct cocoa flavor – white chocolate is simply cocoa butter and sugar.  Royce’s approach makes perfect sense because the matcha tea brings in the bitter flavor to fill the void left by removing the cocoa solids from the chocolate.

Ingredients: Fresh cream, cocoa butter, sugar, skim milk powder, whole milk powder, lactose, powdered green tea, cherry brandy, soy lecithin, artificial flavor.

I’m not happy to find artificial flavor on the ingredients list, but this chocolate is more about having fun than eating health food.  Still, I hope they can find away to remove artificial flavor from the recipe  even if it adds cost.

Last Bite – Nama Chocolate “Maccha”

I paid about 800 Yen in the airport, but for another 100, they wrap it up in a little cold pack so that it can survive the 14 hour ride back to the US in good condition.   Royce’ makes chocolate on Japan’s northern-most island, Hokkaido, using local cream from the region.   Royce’ has three retail shops in New York City, so check it out if you’re looking for something unique, on the sweet side, but with balance and attention to detail that you’d expect from a Japanese product.

Notes:

[1] I paid for this chocolate myself

[2] The most common roman-alphabet spelling for ceremonial green tea powder is “matcha.”  I assume Royce’ spells it as “maccha” as a stylized product name and indirect reference to matcha.